About My Query: BETTER LIVES

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Dear Daphne,

When seventeen year-old Marc Andrews wakes up, committed, after killing his date while driving drunk, life can’t get any more messed up. Then he discovers the loony bin’s a fake, run by aliens.

Disguised as humans, the aliens are slowly taking over Earth. They believe it’s a fair deal for humans, preventing them from destroying their planet. As the future president who starts the nuclear war, the destruction’s Marc’s fault. And he’s forced to experience his victims’ suffering from the averted future. Being an accidental murderer’s one thing, but Marc’s shocked that he attains a Hitler-Stalin level of evil.

Marc’s initially grateful to his captors for preventing him from becoming a monster. That is, until he learns an alien faction, which includes the doppelgänger who replaced him, want Earth for themselves and are conspiring to kick off Armageddon as previously scheduled. Marc can’t let the horrors he’s experienced happen for real. It’s up to him, with help from unexpected allies, to escape, save the planet, and maybe even become a decent human being in the process.

Thanks so much for this opportunity for a critique of my query for BETTER LIVES, a 100,000 words YA science fiction novel. I’m a member of SCBWI and a local chapter critique group.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kind regards,
Eric

So, sci fi’s a tricky genre to easily blurb. In this query, you’re dealing with vehicular manslaughter, drunk driving, a psychiatric institution, debate about predetermination, torture, doppelgangers, and more, and yet the word choice leaves me thinking about funny little green aliens. I think this is a matter of perhaps choosing a different voice with which to query — this one reads very much as Marc’s, which is usually a good thing, but I think in this case we might need that extra bit of separation from the character to put the story in better perspective.

And speaking of putting the book in better perspective, I can’t of course tell from just this description, but I do wonder if this should really be pitched as YA, or if it’s more in the Douglas Adams school of sci-fi man-boy heroes, and as such, might be better served appealing to an adult audience.

You may also want to consider mentioning specifically any of the other characters that Marc interacts with — otherwise, this reads as a very solitary story. Who are the “unexpected allies”? Are they aliens, other inmates at the “asylum”, the ghost of his dead girlfriend? Giving he reader an opportunity to get to know the character better through his intereaction with others may help convince the right reader to take a chance with this.

Other thoughts, my genius commenters?

Photo above by Flickr user m kasahara, used under a Creative Commons license.

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